Lewitt Somarajan, Founder & CEO, Life-Lab, 30, in a brief chat explains Brainfeed Higher Education Plus how systematic changes in pedagogy and learning can impact the overall education structure in India
Q. You are a facilitator of Activity Based Learning (ABL) in institutions, how has this impacted the pedagogy?
Life-Lab recognizes that activity-based learning (ABL) has failed to percolate to low-income schools in India as there have been no support structures to enable teachers to repurpose their roles as facilitators. Life-Lab is bridging this critical gap by designing and codifying these support structures through a three-year-long coaching process. Through easy-to-use toolkits that guide teachers in low-income schools to transition to their new roles as effective facilitators, nudging students to take charge of their own learning.
Q. Where do we lack in incorporating the necessary skills in youth?
The question of instituting quality and moving from the detrimental practice of rote learning has plagued the Indian education sector for over two decades now. Evidently, a need for practices to improve the fractured process of imparting education in classrooms has been felt. Research confirms that students who practice what they are learning in a hands-on environment can often retain three and a half times as much as opposed to just sitting in a lecture room and listening intently. ABL or Inquiry-based learning (IBL) has for long been a proven pedagogy to improve quality of education and has been endorsed by several leading national and international institutions like the UNICEF and the Government of India.
Unfortunately, despite the pedagogy existing for several decades now, it has faced significant limitations in scaling and being practiced in schools across India. Most successful initiatives have stayed limited to private/ alternative schools. For example, UNICEF’s initiative in India has stayed limited to 270 schools over 12 years and the Indian government’s efforts have failed to scale beyond the first segment of primary education (grade 2). As a result, classrooms rooted in inquiry-based learning remain far from reality. Efforts by CSO’s through training of teachers on toolkits have also failed to integrate the method into the learning process.
A critical gap that all efforts have failed in scaling is in enabling teachers to transition to this new pedagogy. Practicing ABL or IBL requires deeper conceptual clarity and competency on part of the teachers. However, teachers, especially those in low-income schools, are products of traditional methods of education and the Central Teacher Eligibility Test is increasingly revealing how ill-equipped teachers are – only 5.6 percent of the teachers passed the test in 2014. There is a need for solutions that empathetically support the shift in mind-sets of teachers and enhance their skills and knowledge.
Q. What can be done to solve this problem?
When the majority of the population is scientifically illiterate, it not only aggravates inequity but also excludes this majority from making decisions and meaningful impact on their environment. Thereby, science learning must be seen as an essential element for the full realization of a human being. We have adopted a threefold strategy to achieve science education for all.
- Creating proof-points by corporate partnership
- Collaborating with other NGOs & social enterprises
- Partnerships with state governments to scale
Q. Is expansion on the cards?
Currently, Life-Lab is working with over 4.5 lakh children across 1300+ schools in the country. Life-Lab program is adopted by the Delhi Government to implement the program across 1000+ schools. In the next 5 years, our goal is to impact 1 million of the 440 million children in India, by enhancing and enriching the quality of science education, with a special focus on the rural region.
Also, Life-Lab last year launched Science-based Graphic Novel, Gappu & Bobo. Children having language proficiency gap with respect to their grade levels has found it really useful.